Labour climbdown on Gambling Bill - Tuesday 12th of April 2005

Culture Secretary Tessa Jowell has bowed to Opposition pressure and limited her controversial scheme for "super casinos" to a single prototype, instead of the eight planned by Labour ministers.

She made the concession as the Government battled to save elements of its legislative programme before Parliament is dissolved in a few days time to make way for a May 5 General Election.

Mrs Jowell accepted the single prototype option after talks with her Conservative opposite number John Whittingdale on the terms under which the Gambling Bill will go forward to the Statute Book. The location of the new casino will be determined by an independent panel.

After his terms were agreed by the Government, Mr Whittingdale said: "The provisions of the Bill relating to casinos remain highly controversial and have not had proper scrutiny in Parliament. Regional casinos are an entirely new concept for the UK and there are real fears about the impact they may have on crime and gambling addiction."

Mr Whittingdale explained: "We have therefore told the Government that we will accept the establishment of just one regional casino as a prototype, in order to assess its impact. Its location should be a leisure resort where the regeneration potential is greatest. The case for locating such a casino in Blackpool is very strong."

Confirming that the Government had accepted the Conservative proposal, the spokesman said the Opposition would now allow the Bill to become law. "We have always made clear that there is much in the Gambling Bill we support. In particular, the establishment of a Gambling Commission and the regulation of remote gambling are necessary and uncontentious. It is important that these measures reach the Statute Book as soon as possible," he said.
 

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